Monday, June 4, 2018

Your team-by-team rooting guide to the 2018 Stanley Cup final

As we head into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight, most fans will have already picked a side. Maybe you’re on board with the unprecedented underdog story of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. Or maybe you’re rooting for the long-suffering Washington Capitals as they try to undo 44 years of misery. Or maybe you’re not backing anyone, because if your team can’t win it all then you don’t see why anyone else should get to be happy either. Honestly, it’s probably that last one.

Or maybe you’re just a procrastinator. If so, we’re here to help. Today, let’s run through the other 29 NHL fan bases and see if we can come up with a reason to root for either the Caps or the Knights over the next few nights as the Stanley Cup Final winds its way to a close.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres have spent the better part of the last decade struggling to pull of a traditional rebuild, complete with trades, firings, blatant tanking and (finally) some lottery luck. It hasn’t work yet, but they have a plan and they’re sticking to it. The Capitals had a similar vision back in 2004, and seeing it finally pay off would remind Sabres fans that sometimes, slow and steady wins the race. On the other hand, a Golden Knights championship would suggest that titles can be won by accident and all this long-term planning may have just been an utter waste of time. If I were a Sabres fan, I know which option I’d prefer to believe in.

Pick: Capitals

Tampa Bay Lightning

Some lingering bitterness after the conference final is perfectly acceptable. And Alex Ovechkin finally winning a championship would move Steven Stamkos even further up the list of players under the spotlight for their own lack of playoff success, which Tampa fans would probably prefer to avoid.

Pick: Golden Knights

Winnipeg Jets

Much like the Lightning, we’ll allow Jets fans to still be harbouring a few conference-final grudges — especially after watching the best team in Winnipeg’s NHL history bow out in five games to an expansion team.

Pick: Capitals

New York Rangers

There’s a good case to be made that New York fans should be rooting for their long-time rivals. After all, the Capitals and Rangers have gone toe-to-toe in multiple playoff showdowns over the years, and while some of those have featured bad blood, there should be a certain level of respect between the two teams by now. Respect is a wonderful thing. It also doesn’t have much to do with how hockey fans think, so…

Pick: Golden Knights

New York Islanders

I’m not sure what the statute of limitations is for forgiving Dale Hunter’s cheap shot on Pierre Turgeon, but I’m pretty sure we haven’t reached it yet.

Pick: Golden Knights

Toronto Maple Leafs

Leafs fans will always have a complicated relationship with teams like the Capitals winning a Cup, since it removes one more entry from the list of teams with comparable droughts to Toronto’s. But surely an expansion team winning in year one would be worse, and at least a Caps win would offer up some sort of lesson on the value of perseverance in the face of decades of futility. Also, if the Knights win then the Leafs will finish the playoffs as the team that lost to the team that lost to the team that lost to the team that lost to the champions, which is never an honour you want to earn if you’re trying to convince yourself that you’re close to contending.

Pick: Capitals

Pittsburgh Penguins

A Vegas win means Marc-Andre Fleury gets to be happy and Ovechkin gets to be sad, making this just about the easiest call on the entire list.

Pick: Golden Knights

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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